Europe Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Trip Report Just Back - Dayle's Solo Trip to Italy

Jump to last reply

Just got back from 3 wonderful weeks in Italy - my third trip. This time around as a solo traveler visiting the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Tuscany and Umbria. Thanks so much to the Fodorites who provided suggestions and detailed info for some of my questions. Here is my trip report with my personal opinions and recommendations. It may be more detail than some people care for, but I hope it helps those of you in the planning stages!

Flight day got off to a great start with Delta leaving just slightly behind schedule out of Salt Lake. For the first (and probably only) time in my life I was flying first/business class thanks to FF miles saved for many years. I had to book a year ahead to get this award ticket. I have to say, it’s the way to go if you can afford it! What a difference. Extremely roomy leather seats, lots of leg room, and very attentive flight attendants, food was actually quite good. We made it to JKF ahead of schedule and there was plenty of time to make the connection. Ended up having a very fun New York gal sit next to me and we gabbed for a couple hours until time to sleep. The Business Class seats on Delta were the best with all kinds of fine tuning adjustments for your comfort. For the first time, I actually slept on a plane. It was great to wake up for breakfast about 1 ½ hours out of Rome feeling relatively fresh and ready to go!

Amalfi Coast, day 1
Took the Leonardo Express into Rome which was very easy. Missed the ES to Salerno so I got a ticket to Naples on the next ES. I’m not an overly fussy person, but the train was filthy and smelled like a stadium restroom that hadn’t been cleaned in years! I thought, wow this is the worst train I’ve ever been on. I can’t believe it’s a Eurostar train. I should have listened to my intuition. I had mistakenly boarded the Direct (extremely slow) train to Naples that actually left 10 minutes before my ES train but from the same track. Instead of taking 1 ½ hours to Naples, I took me 2 ½ hours on a miserable train.

From there, I got the SITA bus to Praiano, but had to wait another hour for departure. It was a long, hot day of travel and took much longer than expected. In hindsight, I would have paid the $300 for a private driver from direct Fiumicino to Praiano and felt it worth the price.

Hotel: Le Sirene in Praiano. A double room for 90E a night. Quite a few steps down to the hotel. Like most rooms fairly basic, but completely clean and comfortable. The traditional Amalfi tile everywhere. Large room and bathroom. Lovely private terrace with a sea view. Dead quiet at night, which I love! Gianfranco and Maria were wonderful, welcoming and extremely helpful. Breakfast on the outdoor terrace was very good. Definitely recommend Le Sirene.

Weather: Extremely hot and humid for someone who lives in a dessert climate. Unfortunately, I learned the Italian word for mosquitoes “zanzari”. Not many, but enough to eat me alive. Very nasty little devils. Everyone was walking around with huge, ugly red welts on their legs.

Fashion: 98% of the people you will see are tourists, wearing every sort of tennis shoe and walking sandal you can imagine. Clothes very casual, even among the locals. Wear whatever you want. I was very glad I took sleeveless, nice tee shirts, linen tops and pants, and a tiered cotton skirt.

Crowds: This was the first time tour groups had a negative impact on a trip to Italy. The Amalfi Coast was absolutely packed with tour groups and tour buses. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like in July and August. I would never consider going during those months, nor would I ever go again in September. My first trip to Praiano had been in March 10 years ago and the difference was horrible to experience. SITA buses ran 30 to 45 minutes late or didn’t show up at all. When they arrived, they were packed and stifling. If you must go during peak tourist months, I would recommend picking a town and parking yourself there. Don’t even try to go to the other towns -- unless you can get there by sea.

Praiano - day 2
I took the SITA bus to Ravello. Ravello was very nice, but I thought the Villa Cimbrone Gardens were a bit overrated, 5E to get in. The views were awesome however, and I had a nice lunch of caprese salad (my favorite) and nice local wine. I also finally acquired a beautiful ceramic platter with the lemon design! Very expensive, plus shipping home, so this was my major souvenir of the trip. Getting to Ravello on public transportation was so awful and took so long, that I would not recommend staying in Ravello unless you use taxis or plan on relaxing and not going anywhere else during your time in the area.

Day 3 - I took the bus, boat, and train down to Paestum. It took about 2 ½ hours one way, but was well worth it! The temples are beautiful and so different from Roman ruins.

Important Note:
The trains and buses in Campania are good for bus/train for a certain number of minutes. You cannot buy a return train ticket at the Paestum train station! You must buy your return ticket at one of the cafes in Paestum before making the long walk back to the station.

Discovering this the hard way lead to interesting encounter #1. The station agent (who cannot sell tickets, but handles the arriving/departing trains) saw my look of disbelief and defeat. At this point, I was hot, tired, dusty, and had blisters on both feet. I guess my opinion of walking all the way back and forth again was clearly shown on my face! He offered (in Italian, he did not speak any English) to give me a ride back to Paestum to get the ticket and I took him up on it! In return I got us both a cold Coke in the bar and away we went back to the station. So - now he wants me to sit and visit in his air conditioned office. We had a limited, but interesting conversation while I waited for my train. My Italian is not good enough for a fluent conversation, but he did tell me he collects stamps and asked me to send him some. Harmless enough guy, but he sure tried his best to make an “impression”.

On the catamaran boat back from Salerno to Amalfi, I was the only passenger! Seems not many people do this, but it was a beautiful ride. Coming up the gangplank, I was looking ahead, not down, and missed a step down into the boat. Went down on my hands and knees while the young crew members just stared and didn’t move a muscle. Didn’t even ask if I was alright. Interesting.

Took the boat to Positano and walked around a bit, then stopped for a glass of wine at a bar on the beach and just people watched. Lots of expensive shopping, clothes, jewelry, typical tourist stuff and lots of tourists. I’m so glad I decided to stay in Praiaino, it was much more my kind of place. I think if you like some nightlife, shopping and the resort atmosphere, you would prefer Positano and be bored in Praiano.

Restaurant: La Brace in Praiano. I had a dinner here 10 years ago and remembered it to be very good. Had a delicious seafood dinner here my first night with friendly, professional service. The second night, I tried a little trattoria/pizzeria in Praiano where my waiter (an Arab immigrant) made it very obvious he didn’t want to serve a single woman. Dinner was poor, the clams so sandy I couldn’t eat them. I headed back to La Brace for desert and they insisted on treating me to the dessert. Yummy tiramisu compliments of Gianni, the owner. I returned the third night and was greeted like an old friend. Again, a fabulous dinner. I would highly recommend La Brace. They asked me not to recommend them to too many people because they’re getting old! Be sure to try La Signora’s mixed grilled vegetables. They are to die for.

Capri - day 4
Since there was no hope of getting my single piece of luggage on the crowded Positano/Praiano bus, I took a taxi to Positano, sort of. 20E got me dropped off above the town and I had to walk down the stairs with my rolling suitcase. I had made a reservation for the 9:30 am boat and was glad I knew it was necessary. There were lot of people extremely disappointed to find out they were going to have to wait and take the 11:30 am boat for their day trip to Capri.

Hotel: Stayed at Hotel Bellavista in Anacapri, a 3*. Nice enough single room and very quiet hotel, but it has seen better days. Breakfast not good. It seems they have a lunch contract with a big tour outfit and the group was getting instructions from their guide during lunch. Grabbed a quick lunch in a pizzeria where every customer but me had a tour group sticker on their shirt. Not a good sign, but the food and wine were good enough and the service speedy. They seemed surprised and impressed that I was able to order in Italian.

Took the lift up to Mt. Solaris and enjoyed the views of the clear turquoise water below. Walked around a bit into the local neighborhood below and found a church, Chiesa Monumentale S. Michele, with a famous mosaic floor. It was really beautiful and I recommend visiting to see it. Jammed onto the little bus back down to Capri. Yes it’s quite a ride, but not scary. Walked around town and tried not to be trampled to death by a tour group. Sorry to say I did not enjoy this aspect of Capri at all.

Day 5
I took the boat tour around the island in the small wooden boat. We had about 20 passengers of all nationalities. This was a true highlight and very relaxing! The sea as very rough that day on the gulf side of the island (much to the dismay of the Italian girl sitting next to me - yuck) so the Blue Grotto was closed. That was OK, our tour took us to other grottos where we could see the beautiful effect of the sun reflecting into the water. We also saw a cave where red coral was growing. It was a very relaxing and beautiful trip. Perfect temps and the wind in your hair. Capri was definitely getting much better! After the boat ride, I stopped for a great lunch at ristorante Villa Verde in Capri. Excellent grilled seafood lunch and a beautiful interior garden setting. Then I made the hike up to Villa Jovis which is quite a hike. Not many people do this, so it was nice to see what the residential areas of Capri were really like and again to get away from the day tripping crowds in town. I ended the day with a glass of wine in the small piazza and definitely noticed fewer people in the evening.

Some people enjoy the high end shopping and that type of thing. What I enjoyed was the natural beauty of Capri. I would not go there again during tourist season. I would go to Ischia instead.

The next morning, on to Sorrento via the alifscafi. My scheduled boat never showed up, so waited another hour before one came. The ride was very scary!!! The sea was rough out in the middle, the “wings” kept hitting the water and we were nearly thrown out of our seats. I was really scared (not much scares me) and looked around to see if the regulars were concerned. They were. I would not recommend the alifscafi, take the boat instead!

Next Pompeii and Napoli…..

94 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcement: Writers Needed for Morocco Guidebook
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Apr 11, 14 at 05:51 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Upcoming Spain itinerary-eyeballs please!
  2. 2 Normandy, Brittany and Loire Valley in May - please help with itinerary
  3. 3 21 Days in Central Europe
  4. 4 Portugal with a 3 year old and 1 year old
  5. 5 London 2nd time around
  6. 6 Slovenia-Croatia-Bosnia Herzegovina-Montenegro Itinerary Help
  7. 7 Tram 28 safe to travel with kids?
  8. 8 London visit
  9. 9 Tuscany with 13 and 19 year old girls
  10. 10 portugal trip 14 days - where to visit and stay
  11. 11 Two weeks in Paris ... how to fill?
  12. 12 Need help with Europe Itinerary
  13. 13 Venice canal boats--best deals?
  14. 14 US citizen - Stay in France longer than 1 year - how?
  15. 15 A Good Base on Mallorca
  16. 16 Advice Train from Berlin to Prague
  17. 17 How to get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Gare du Nord?
  18. 18 Malmaison - how to get there from Paris
  19. 19 My itinerary for Greece
  20. 20 Trip Report Our Spain Adventure -- Cordoba, Seville, Granada and Barcelona! (Part One)
  21. 21 Paris Perfect: change of apartment
  22. 22 Driving to Paris... Parking?
  23. 23 Has anyone toured La Pietra near Florence?
  24. 24 Day trip to Northern Italy Suggestions
  25. 25 Altitude sickness in Switzerland
View next 25 » Back to the top